Status dystonicus: a practice guide

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2014 Feb;56(2):105-12. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12339. Epub 2013 Dec 4.


Status dystonicus is a rare, but life-threatening movement disorder emergency. Urgent assessment is required and management is tailored to patient characteristics and complications. The use of dystonia action plans and early recognition of worsening dystonia may potentially facilitate intervention or prevent progression to status dystonicus. However, for established status dystonicus, rapidly deployed temporizing measures and different depths of sedation in an intensive care unit or high dependency unit are the most immediate and effective modalities for abating life-threatening spasms, while dystonia-specific treatment takes effect. If refractory status dystonicus persists despite orally active anti-dystonia drugs and unsuccessful weaning from sedative or anaesthetic agents, early consideration of intrathecal baclofen or deep brain stimulation is required. During status dystonicus, precise documentation of dystonia sites and severity as well as the baseline clinical state, using rating scales and videos is recommended. Further published descriptions of the clinical nature, timing of evolution, resolution, and epidemiology of status dystonicus are essential for a better collective understanding of this poorly understood heterogeneous emergency. In this review, we provide an overview of the clinical presentation and suggest a management approach for status dystonicus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Baclofen / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chloral Hydrate / administration & dosage
  • Clonidine / administration & dosage
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Conscious Sedation
  • Critical Pathways
  • Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dystonic Disorders / complications
  • Dystonic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Dystonic Disorders / etiology
  • Dystonic Disorders / therapy*
  • Emergencies*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal
  • Pallidotomy
  • Risk Factors
  • Thalamus / surgery


  • Chloral Hydrate
  • Baclofen
  • Clonidine